At the direction of Governor Ron DeSantis, Florida has made it a felony to transport a person into the state who hasn’t been inspected by immigration authorities. Effective July 1, driving a broad and poorly defined class of immigrants into Florida is a crime. But a new lawsuit seeks to stop the law, which makes everyday life incredibly difficult for immigrants, their families, and their communities.
The lawsuit argues that the law – Section 10 of Florida Senate Bill 1718 – violates the U.S. Constitution for two reasons.
First, the Florida legislature violated the U.S. Constitution when it assumed the role of the federal government by enacting its own immigration laws and conducting immigration enforcement.
Second, the law violates the Constitution because the words used in the law are vague. It is unclear what the law means when it says “inspected” by immigration authorities. Therefore, it doesn’t give fair notice of who cannot be transported. Because the law is unclear, this will lead to arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement.
The lawsuit was filed in a Florida federal court by a coalition of organizations on behalf of the Farmworkers Association of Florida (FWAF) and a diverse group of individuals. Each plaintiff will be harmed under this illegal provision.
A U.S. citizen grandmother fears traveling with her grandson, who has a pending application for immigration status. The director of a Georgia nonprofit worries she must stop driving immigrants to Florida for their scheduled medical appointments. A Catholic deacon can no longer safely bring immigrant parishioners to their immigration interviews in Florida. A mixed-immigration status family cannot travel the state together.
These plaintiffs are all at risk of arrest, mandatory detention, and ultimately a felony conviction for going about their daily lives—and helping others.
FWAF staff have been forced to field countless calls from anxious members worried that they might commit a felony if they drive with a colleague to work. And FWAF is likely to lose members, as immigrants are pushed out of the state to find work and put roots down elsewhere.
In response, DeSantis’ office has accused these plaintiffs of being “human smugglers.” The vitriol and hate behind the law is evident.
The filing of the lawsuit is just the first step. Federal court litigation can be slow. To stop enforcement of the law while the litigation proceeds, plaintiffs will need to file a motion for a preliminary injunction. They will have to show that they are likely to win the case and will be irreparably harmed if the court does not intervene now. Then it will be up to the court to decide.
Lawsuits are always a last resort. But when a state – led by a governor who has made anti-immigrant policies the centerpiece of his political ambitions – enacts an unconstitutional law, litigation is sometimes the only option. It will be up to the courts to ensure that Florida respects the Constitution and protects the rights of everyone who travels into the state.
FILED UNDER: Florida